Based on earlier reviews I read of J.K Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter release, I had fairly low expectations for this novel. It’s definitely not Harry Potter, but I found it enjoyable once I got into it. In The Casual Vacancy, a city councilor in a small town dies unexpectedly, leaving an opening on the city council just when a historically contentious issue is coming up for a vote. Rowling builds the town, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, local store by geographic landmark, until you almost feel like you live there.
Having grown up in a small town mired in its own constant controversies over flood control and developments, I actually kind of liked this novel. The political maneuverings were funny, and interesting, and sometimes its nice to read a book where the stakes are something small like winning a local election rather than saving the world. I related to the town, and to the characters, and the suburban struggles they dealt with.
It does take 40 or 50 pages to really get invested in the stories. There are almost too many characters, so you don’t get a sense of who the main players are and how they interact with each other until you’ve covered a substantial amount of pages. Overall, the book reminded me of the Mitford series. I read that entire series and honestly, nothing happens in every book! But there’s something comforting about small stories about regular people living in a quiet town occasionally. It’s a nice, calming break from the mysteries and suspense books I read more frequently.